Lady Panthers are five alive

Lady Panthers are five alive

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Lady Panthers are five alive

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Beech High junior Reeves Parrish sets a pass.

Beech High junior Reeves Parrish sets a pass.

Portland High sophomore libero Lexi Wakefield passes a serve.

Portland High sophomore libero Lexi Wakefield passes a serve.

HENDERSONVILLE The Portland High volleyball team battled back time and time again.

So did Beech.

However, it was the Lady Panthers who surged last in a 25-21, 12-25, 28-26, 23-25, 15-12 victory on the Lady Buccaneers’ home court on Tuesday evening.

“Beech is probably the most competitive team we play in our district,” Portland junior outside hitter Alexia Dorris said. “We always want to beat them, because their level of play is so good. The respect level is very high.”

The last six meetings between the two teams have lasted five games, with each team winning three of those. Beech won on the Lady Panthers’ home floor on Aug. 25, a match decided by a 15-5 margin in the fifth game.

Portland High junior Bailey Thornton sets a pass as sophomore teammate Emily Brown makes her approach.

Portland High junior Bailey Thornton sets a pass as sophomore teammate Emily Brown makes her approach.

“This one is like icing on the cake,” Dorris said. “In past years, we’ve always been competitive against Beech. Even though we play our hardest against the other teams to, this one gives us confidence. We always have to just keep a level head.”

Portland (16-5 overall, 7-1 in District 9-AAA) won games one and three on Tuesday, with the Lady Bucs bouncing back each time.

Beech (20-5, 6-2) dominated game two, but the Lady Panthers staved off two game points in the third game before prevailing.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum,” Lady Buccaneer head coach Grant Harford said. “Half of the battle is capitalizing on momentum or building back after losing momentum.”

Beech senior Saidee McDaniel won two of the final three points in the fourth game with kills.

“They know we can get kills, and we know they can do the same,” Portland head coach Rob Lesemann said. “When they get on a roll, they get fired up, and we start doubting. When we get on a roll, they start doubting.”

Beech High senior Elizabeth Epley swings into a jump-serve.

Beech High senior Elizabeth Epley swings into a jump-serve.

A kill from Dorris gave Portland a 9-6 lead in the fifth game, but a pair of kills from junior Taylor Bever and three consecutive service winners by classmate Reeves Parrish quickly thrust Beech out to a 12-10 lead.

However, Dorris gave her squad a sideout with a cross-court kill and actually won three of the next four points with kills.

“There’s a ton of nerves,” Dorris said. “You just want to win. It’s super nerve-wracking. The intensity is very high.”

Freshman teammate Marlayna Bullington also provided a kill, and Bullington and junior Mackenzie Trouten combined for a block at the net as the Lady Panthers ended the match by winning the final six points.

“Our game five wasn’t strong,” Harford said. “It was a little timid, not much, but it was enough. We just couldn’t capitalize.”

Portland sits atop the district standings with the win, though Lebanon also has just one loss in league play.

“This was huge,” Lesemann said. “We needed to beat them.

“I thought we had them in four (games), but they were able to come back and take it. Anything can happen in the fifth game. We started slow but got turned around. We played with aggressiveness and confidence after that. It was a huge game. Both teams played well I felt like.”

Reach Craig Harris at 615-575-7138 or on Twitter @HarrisGNESports. 

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